- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Federal investigators yesterday said evidence increasingly shows that the cross-contamination of letters, including an anthrax-laced letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, did not emerge solely from the mail-sorting machines at the District's Brentwood Road postal facility.
Three mail-sorting bins used at the Brentwood facility that have tested positive for anthrax exposure have been used to sort mail that goes to Capitol Hill and scores of federal buildings in the region, said FBI and other law-enforcement sources familiar with the investigation.
The increasing number of federal buildings testing positive for exposure to the deadly bacteria offers further proof that more than one anthrax-laced letter is responsible for the outbreak, said officials with the FBI and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A senior FBI source who has worked closely on the anthrax investigation said "it wouldn't be a surprise to see more federal mailrooms [testing positive] because all mail [in the District] goes through Brentwood."
Another law-enforcement source said investigators are beginning to think, because the contamination is so widespread, that more than one anthrax-laced letter went through postal facilities other than Brentwood.
So far, about a dozen federal buildings including the Supreme Court, the Justice Department and an off-site White House mail facility have tested positive for anthrax exposure. In many instances, the amount of the exposure has been negligible.
The anthrax attacks have left two D.C. postal workers dead, and more than 30 local cases of inhalation or skin anthrax cases have been confirmed or suspected.
Dr. Bradley Perkins, who led the CDC probe of the anthrax exposures in Florida that left one man dead, said his investigators believe there is more tainted mail.
"There are letters that went through the mail system that we do not yet know about," Dr. Perkins said yesterday.
Dr. Perkins said he does not believe there is a great threat to the general public, even though thousands of postal workers are being urged to wear protective masks and gloves when handling the 680 million pieces of mail delivered each day to homes across the country.
There is a "potential concern" that infected mail in sacks or mail trays may have contaminated other mail because letters are bunched tightly together and handled robustly, he said.
But Dr. Perkins said one investigator believes "high-speed machines" spread the anthrax spores found at Brentwood and Trenton, N.J., postal facilities.
Chris Murray, a spokesman for the FBI's Washington Field Office, said he could not comment on the investigation.
Dr. Perkins said the FBI has begun an attempt to "recall" tainted mail as it looks for more clues.
So far, investigators believe the culprits behind the anthrax attacks are domestic but have not ruled out ties with Saudi exile Osama bin Laden or his al Qaeda terrorist network.
Dr. Ivan C.A. Walks, the District's chief medical official, said 3,000 facilities in the area receive bulk mail from the Brentwood facility.
Federal and city officials are discussing how to deal with anthrax-tainted letters coming in contact with mail at those facilities. They are considering testing all 3,000 facilities, decontaminating all of them or testing a sample to assess the extent of the contamination.
Dr. Walks said he thinks one anthrax-laced letter could have caused the outbreak. "We are talking about microscopic spores, so you don't need a whole cupfull to spread around," he said.
Senior government officials who have been investigating the spread of anthrax in the Washington region said it would be prudent to test all of the federal buildings because they are all served by the epicenter of the District's anthrax attacks the Brentwood facility.
The Washington Times first reported Friday that all federal buildings were being tested for anthrax. The CDC released a list of those buildings tested, and more positive test results trickle in each day. Private businesses being tested were included in the list.

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